NFL Betting Guide 101: Reading Odds & Best Places to Bet At

When it comes to sports wagering, there really isn’t anything better than betting on the NFL.  It is the most popular sport in the United States and it’s not even close.  When you have such a giant in terms of fandom, it’s going to closely follow that this is the most bet on sport as well.

With NFL betting you get higher limits than other sports and more betting options when it comes to team and player props.  There is plenty of coverage of the teams so there isn’t a lot of information that you don’t have access to.  The downside is that the oddsmakers have access to the same information as well so they are usually pretty sharp at setting the lines on the games.

If you are just a beginner when it comes to betting on NFL games, or have dabbled in the past, this guide will get you ready for the season.  You’ll feel comfortable with reading the different odds including point spreads, totals, moneylines, futures, futures, and props.  You’ll be able to tease or parlay your favorite wagers together and I’ll cover the best sportsbooks to use for NFL betting.

So let’s dive right in.

Understanding How to Read the NFL Betting Lines & Odds

You have several wagering options to choose from.  You can bet on individual games, events to occur within the game, or a bet that will be settled in the future.  Let’s go over all the different ways to gamble on the NFL so know what you are doing when you are ready to pull the trigger.


This is the simplest and most straightforward betting option.  Betting the moneyline is just picking the winner of the game.  You don’t have to worry about handicaps like the point spread.

The odds for the moneyline are set based on the strengths of each team.  Most of the time there is a favorite and an underdog with the exception being two evenly matched teams having odds of -110 on both sides.

The favorite is displayed with a minus sign (-) followed by a number.  This number indicates how much you need to wager in order to win $100.

The underdog is represented by a plus sign (+), which shows how much you would win from a $100 bet.

Let’s look at a quick example:

New England -150
Miami +130

In this situation New England is the favorite and a $150 bet on them would yield a profit of $100 if they win.  On the other hand, you can bet $100 on Miami and profit $130 if they win the game.

Moneylines are great because your interests align with the teams, their goal is to win the game and if they do so you profit as well.  It’s also a nice way to score a big payout if you like an underdog who comes through.  The downside is that sometimes you have to risk quite a bit of your bankroll in order to win on the favorite.

However, moneylines can provide a nice opportunity to line shop.  Sometimes two different books will have the same spreads, but one has a better number on the moneyline for the favorite than the other one.

Point Spreads

The most popular way to bet on the NFL is with point spreads.  The sportsbooks will assign a specific number of points to the favorite and the team has to win by this amount or more for bettors to cash in.  Conversely, the underdogs can still lose the game, but they have to lose by less than the point spread number in order to cover and their backers to profit.

With point spread betting the odds are generally listed with the favorite team and a minus (-) number following it.  There will also be a price associated with that number, but most of the time that price is -110.  This price means you have to wager $110 to win $100.  The underdog will be displayed with a plus sign (+) which indicates how much they can afford to lose by and still “win” with the bet.

Let’s look at an example:

Dallas -7.5 (-110)
Philadelphia +7.5 (-110)

If you bet on Dallas they must win by eight or more points for you to cash your ticket.  Philadelphia can lose by seven points or less, or win the game, and you would profit.  The -110 on both teams indicates you have to wager $110 to win $100.

Point spreads are great because they even the playing field in a way that the juice is close to -110 on each side.  But, your interests aren’t necessarily in line with your teams.  In the example above, if Dallas is up by seven late in the game they are more concerned with running out the clock than they are getting a few extra points to cover the number.

Totals (Over/Unders)

Totals, also known as over/under betting, are another popular way to bet on NFL game outcomes.  It involved wagering on whether the combined score of the two teams would be over or under a certain number.  The sportsbooks will set this number at what they think the expected combined score will be.  It doesn’t matter which team wins the game, just how many points are scored by both of them.

The price on totals bets is again typically set at -110, so to win $100 you have to risk $110.  However, they might adjust the price slightly depending on how the action is coming in.  Let’s look at an example.

Over 50.5 (-110)
Under 50.5 (-110)

If you bet on the over the combined score for the two teams has to be 51 or higher.  If you take the under your bet will win if both teams score 50 or less points.  Overtime is included.

Totals are a fun bet to make on NFL games because they are easy to understand and it’s exciting because every score matters, no matter what team does it.  The general public loves taking overs.  They like rooting for something to happen instead of something not to happen.


A parlay bet is a single bet that links together two or more individual wagers and is dependent on all of those wagers winning together. The benefit is that the payout is higher than placing each individual bet separately, but the risk is that if one of the bets loses, the entire parlay is lost.


A teaser allows you to adjust the side or total of a game a certain number of points.  The catch is that you have to “parlay” these alternate lines together and you’ll get a reduce payout.  Typically a two-team NFL teaser has a price of -120, but sometimes you can find -110.

There used to be a money printer when it came to betting NFL teasers.  Books would let you cross key numbers and give you even money on two-team six-point teasers.  Those days are gone but if you find the right spot this is a great wager to place when betting the NFL.

If your book offers juice worse than -120 then it’s almost never going to be worth it to play teasers there.

Prop Betting

There are more props to bet on in the NFL than any other sport.  The books have a lot more time to set the lines on each player and will post passing yards, receiving yards, and rushing yards props on about everyone who sees significant time.  The oddsmakers are also willing to post props like first touchdown, team totals, and about anything else you could want.

The opportunity to profit on props is pretty significant, and the easiest way to do that is just to line shop.  With so many players to keep track of and without a screen like Don Best displaying all of the odds you can typically compare across several different books and get vastly different numbers.  This means if you have multiple books for NFL betting you can get a player over 54.5 rushing yards and under 62.5 at another place.  These kinds of middles are almost impossible to find on sides and totals, but show up every week with props.


The definition of a future is a wager that is settled at a later date. You’ll see a lot of NFL futures available before the season begins.  You’ll see season win totals, odds to win each division, make the playoffs, and win the Super Bowl.

The good part about futures is that you can wager a small amount and have a season’s worth of entertainment.  The bad thing about futures is that if you have an edge, the ROI you are going to get waiting around for months is almost always less than you can get with alternative investments so isn’t really worth much for professional bettors.

Live (In-Play) Betting

One of the most popular ways to bet on the NFL is with live betting.  This is action that takes place after kickoff while the game is going on.  I want to make sure you know that there is likely a delay in the game you are watching on TV and the feed that the books get.  So if you think a team is about to score and the books adjusts to a line that looks like the other team has the ball, they probably do.

This and the fact that the books put a spinner on live bets makes this type of betting difficult to win with.  The trick is to wait until there is a break in the action so the books edge is gone.  They don’t have the advantage of seeing what’s going on several seconds into the future, so you are on an equal footing with them and can take advantage.

I’ve seen errors in models like DraftKings where they don’t factor in weather changes, injury information, or even how the way football scoring works.  They’ll post a late line of a team -4 who is driving, but the game is tied with under a minute left.  They are going to try to milk the clock and kick a field goal as time expires but their software isn’t smart enough to figure that out on their own.

So, use caution with NFL live betting, but realize there is opportunity there too.

Best Sportsbooks to Use for Betting on NFL Games

For the NFL line shopping is even more important than in college football.  The games are lower scoring so every little half point matters that much more.  The lines on Sunday morning are pretty tight, so if you can get a better price you will save yourself some coin over the course of a season.

It’s also best to look at the prices on teasers if you like those.  Some books don’t even let you play them anymore, which is laughable.  Others really juice it up if you are crossing the key numbers of 3 and 7, which kind of defeats the purpose.

One thing books love to do to get new customers is offer bonuses and incentives to existing customers.  With the NFL being the most popular sport to bet on, you can really cash in with these offers if you pay enough attention.

Successful Strategies for Betting the NFL

When betting on point spreads you have to pay attention to the key numbers, especially 3 and 7.  The scoring structure of football makes the number of games that land on that margin a lot higher than other numbers so pay attention and try to shop around.

The best tip I can give anyone for betting on NFL totals is to watch the weather.  If conditions get nasty it gets difficult for teams to get the ball into the endzone and put up points.  If you like taking unders, look for high winds specifically.

Resources to Check Out for Wagering on the NFL


Where do people bet on the NFL?

You can bet on the NFL in several places.  Over half the states have legalized sports betting.  If your state is one of them then I suggest Circa, DraftKings, Caesers, FanDuel, or BetMGM.  If it is legal iin your jurisdiction BetOnline, BetCris, and Pinnacle offer excellent lines and high limits.  If you are looking for a trip I suggest Las Vegas!

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